I often hear the phrase “I don’t date Jamaican women” floating around in conversations around me. Men, often Jamaicans, tend to use this phrase proudly, citing their many reasons for preferring women of other nationalities. I once dated a man who always referred to anything wrong that I did as “so Jamaican”. If I talked too loud, laughed too loud or even listened to my music too loud, I was “too Jamaican for him”. My friend, an American, married a Jamaican guy who used me to exemplify why he would never date a Jamaican woman, “she’s too feisty and she always has something smart to say, I can’t deal with it—too Jamaican for me”. So ladies, and gentlemen—if I haven’t chased you away just yet—I want to know, what is it that is “too Jamaican” about us and why is our Jamaicanness such a negative thing?
Let me start with the first characteristic they tend to harp on. We’re LOUD. And if you are quiet or soft-spoken, you are not a typical Jamaican, or so they say. So tell me this, are we loud or is it the strength is our speech that they tend to shy away from? I mean, I am no sitting duck. There is hardly a man that can tell me to move and I do it without questioning his reasons. And if you choose to raise your voice at me, believe that it will come back double force. Forgive me for being Jamaican and having a Jamaican mother who taught me not to be acquiescent in a world where men are dominant. If I speak with passion, then I’m considered “too Jamaican”; if I speak with conviction then I’m considered “a typical Jamaican woman”; If I happen to shut you down after you thought you were in command of a discussion that you were so wrong about, I am considered “so Jamaican”. My question is, what’s so bad about being loud? I’m not saying that there aren’t the viragoes who carry on in their loud, expletive-ridden street combats, but why does the reputation of these have to carry over for the rest of us? Gone are the days when men worked and women sat home to mind their kids and the neighbor’s kids. We are liberated now; we are educated and if we stay home it’s because we want to, not because they are in control and they tell us to. So now that my foremothers have fought the good fight and taught me better, what is so wrong about being loud? Jamaican women, be loud and proud, just speak eloquently.
The second negative stereotype that they throw at us is that we are too feisty and talkative. Forgive me for taking the ultra feminist perspective on this one but I have to say that this construct was created by weak, undereducated men whose egos have been hurt by some strong women. Forget about getting into an intelligent discussion with a Jamaican man whose educational status is less than yours as a Jamaican woman. He will do everything to hold on to his many wrong points, just so that he does not have to “look small”. So I wonder why we are on the negative end of this particular stereotype. Maybe the tables should be turned. Instead of saying “I don’t date Jamaican women because they are too feisty” a man should admit that he doesn’t date Jamaican women because they cannot handle a strong, educated, intellectual woman that can hold a sensible conversation with him and his “boys”. Again, I’m not referring to viragoes here. I am referring to women of high caliber that have been thrown insults time and time again about our Jamaicanness. So to the man who doesn’t date us because we are too “feisty and loquacious”, you should and try it, there are some very intelligent women that can pick your brain and entice you to think on many levels that are sporting the black, green, and gold.
Everybody knows that the last thing you want to do is tell a Jamaican man about his mother. If you want to die, use the phrase “yuh madda” to a Jamaican man when he is in the heat of an argument. So while I’m at the top of this argument, I want to ask you Jamaican men, why you talkin’ bout yuh madda like dat? Did you forget that your mother is a Jamaican? So when you say that you don’t date Jamaican women, you are disregarding and disrespecting your own mother and sisters. Now if your mother is a virago, this does not apply to you. There are those who will tear off their clothes and “cuss” anybody that comes their way. But if you are among those men who have been raised by a strong woman and are now educated and have moved up in society, don’t you dare snub your nose at Jamaican women. “Yuh Madda” is a Jamaican, remember that.
Do not misinterpret this account. I am sharing this with you in this tone for a reason. You see, Jamaican women are not pretentious. We have this gift of code-switching that amazes people all the time. We can fit in anywhere. We just have the spirit of resilience. We were raised well so we can carry ourselves to fit the occasion. We are genuine so be ready to accept the truth without any sugarcoating. We come from a history of strong fighters. Take Rt. Excellent Nanny of the Maroons, our Jamaican heroine—she’s the only one they have given us—as an example. Nanny led rebellion upon rebellion. Had she not been feisty and loud-mouthed and resilient, we would’ve still been ruled by the British. So when men take on the postcolonial perspective and call us names, they are resorting to demeaning a part of their own culture that has given them the freedom that they so enjoy today.
Nanny is our granny and she left us a legacy that taught us these skills. We come up kicking and screaming because of the many years of oppression that the leading men in the political parties have placed upon us. We come off as feisty and loud because there was a time when men silenced our voices and when we finally found them, there was no giving them back. We come off as “rude and obnoxious” because men can no longer put their feet on our heads and walk all over us. We have joined their circles, we have excelled educationally; we have come out of the kitchen, put on our pumps and suits and have challenged them in the board room. We will stand beside our men but not behind them anymore. Ask Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s first man is no longer the leader, but the one who holds her purse. So the next time you see a Jamaican woman and you snub your nose and run away for a “quiet and shy” woman of another nationality, remember that you have just walked away from a heroine that you probably weren’t strong enough to handle anyway.
As a disclaimer, and as a tribute to mine, I must compliment the many strong men who love their Jamaican women. There are those individuals who would have seen the light and know that life is incomplete without a beautiful Jamaican queen by their side. But for those who are still sitting on the other side, toughen up and get a hold of your ego. So raise your glasses and scream a loud BIG UP to all the educators, lawyers, doctors, Prime Minister, secretaries, saleswomen, chairwomen, Presidents, CEOs, CFAs, CPAs, market women, housewives, seamstresses, and every other profession where my fellow Jamaican women are serving as heroines. We are following in the footsteps of our great Granny Nanny, who has taught us that being Jamaican isn’t such a bad thing.